Giants will go as far as Buster Posey carries them
Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the San Francisco Giants.
2011 record: 86-76
Finish: Second, NL West
2011 final payroll: $118.2 million
Estimated 2012 opening day payroll: $130 million
Yahoo! Sports’ offseason rank: 16th
Hashtags: #sanfrancisc, #no-o, #missbuster, #panda-monium, #lousealbawl, #freddysrevenge, #rakedzito, #lettimmy…
The last time Brian Sabean’s Giants were in the top half of the National League in runs was 2004, when Barry Bonds won his seventh and last MVP award.
Since, their rank among the 16 NL teams has gone like this: 15, 11, 15, 15, 13, 9 and, in 2011, 16.
Yeah, yeah, AT&T Park. Well, in the past seven years the Giants averaged 12th in scoring on the road and, believe me, AT&T’s coverage ain’t that good.
As you can see, the one time they threatened the top half of the league in runs scored – 2010 – they held a parade.
Of concern recently (and, granted, it’s a moving target) was the outfield, where the Giants received almost no production in 2011. Indeed, their right fielders OPS’d 14th in the league, despite 44 games of a .323 batting average and .920 OPS from Carlos Beltran.
So in a winter in which they wisely endeavored to lock up starting pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain on long-term deals (succeeding with neither), the Giants also acquired outfielders Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, who will mix in with Brandon Belt and Nate Schierholtz, at least until Belt replaces Aubrey Huff at first base. If Huff plans on producing anything like he did last season, that won’t come soon enough.
Sabean had the right idea, of course. But, in trading starter Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City, he sold low in order to acquire an outfielder who just had a career year for the Royals, but the season before carried a .671 OPS. Pagan, from the New York Mets for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres, will provide speed, but only if he cracks the Belt-Cabrera-Schierholtz outfield and hits well enough to play every day.
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Bottom line: The Giants passed on the biggest bats of winter. In fact, they passed on most of the mediocre bats as well.
What Sabean and the Giants do have going for them, and in a very big way, is pitching, more pitching and the return of catcher Buster Posey, and maybe that’s all they’ll need to retake their place atop the NL West.
Without a lick of offense, they won 86 games. They endured Posey’s season-ending broken leg/torn ankle ligament (on May 25), 82 games of catcher Eli Whiteside batting .197, Huff’s disaster season, second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s season-ending dislocated shoulder (on June 10), outfielder Aaron Rowand’s 108 games of .274 OBP, along with various other ugliness.
They got three more wins out of Barry Zito. Closer Brian Wilson started the season with an ERA of 40.50 and finished it with a sore elbow. Jonathan Sanchez, as previously mentioned, detoured from 13 wins in 2010 to four.
And still they won 86 games.
So, bring back Posey, hope he’s the old Posey, put him in the cleanup spot and watch the offense sneak up on lukewarm. Hit him in front of – or behind – Pablo Sandoval (he of the new three-year, $17.15 million contract and Lasik-ed eyes) and watch the Giants sneak up on 700 runs, which would be more than enough. And then feather in Freddy Sanchez, whose recovery could drift close to opening day.
Look, they’re not, under any circumstances, a great offensive team. In fact, the Giants will have to overachieve to be good. But offense hardly seems a requirement in the West. They mostly catch the ball. And games generally don’t get away from them, no matter how tortuous they play out.
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They can’t go through another inept season in the batter’s box like they did in 2011. If they do, they’ll have arrived at Cain’s free agency, and have drawn a year closer to Lincecum’s, with just the one postseason berth to show for it.
As good as it was, if that’s all there is, the one October would seem rather lukewarm.
When the Giants open their season in Arizona, more than 10 months will have passed since they put Buster Posey’s left leg back together. He is running again. He will resume what the baseball people call “baseball activities.” He is expected to be Posey again by the close of spring training.
From the moment of that horrific crash at the plate, the Giants have waited on Posey, the uncommon touch he has with their pitchers, the thump he brings to their lineup, and the light he carries for the game.
The town may wear Panda hats and worship the beard, but the team goes where Posey goes.
Giants in Haiku
If you leave your heart
In San Francisco, please leave
A few home runs too
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